Service remains key for restaurant diners but value for money is becoming increasingly important as recession looms, research has revealed.
The 2009 Square Meal Restaurants & Bars report, which surveyed more than 9,500 diners, found service remained a major gripe (44% of all complaints) for customers.
However, it also revealed that as confidence in the UK economy declines, reader comments to Square Meal on their experiences when dining out are increasingly containing words such as "over-priced", "costly" and "poor value".
The survey found an 18% increase in price-related complaints this year (20% of all complaints), with other gripes focused on meal portions (up 50%) and overpriced wine (up 100%), suggesting restaurants are trying to control costs or fatten their margins at the very time when customers are scrutinising value for money.
Customers paying top prices at fine-dining restaurants are also increasingly expecting a correspondingly high-level of service with complaints about the practice of table-turning rising 40%.
Ambience is also of increasing importance making up 19% of complaints (up 35% year-on-year), with dinners keen on an environment where they can escape the economic doom and gloom.
By Chris Druce
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